The above phrase is one I never expected to write, and yet this morning I wrote the following blog endorsing the statements of the Justice Secretary. However during the day the news cycle brought us an update which is that the Government has indeed cancelled the contract with Saudi Arabia. So far so good. The real challenge is that we also need to engage with the kingdom and apply much more pressure on the Saudi Royal Family to stop treating their own people and visitors to the kingdom as they have been treating them, when they break local laws. The problem with my statement above is that Gove has retreated behind a statement that the Government is focusing on the needs of the UK. That is where he and I once again depart company!
The news that the Justice Secretary is willing to challenge the advice of his civil servants and change the direction of the Ministry of Justice in their plans to work with Saudi Arabia is to be welcomed and begins to clean up one of the major stains on the reputation of the department. The Ministry of Justice has already made catastrophic mistakes in our own nation through the deeply flawed Transforming Rehabilitation programme which has led to the virtual collapse of the probation system and damaged many of the charities carrying out vital rehabilitation amongst those leaving prison. However to compound those mistakes with the sale of services and intellectual property to a nation like Saudi Arabia is something all of us should be thoroughly shocked and ashamed of. According to this article “The Ministry of Justice recently announced the closure of Just Solutions International, its commercial wing selling prison expertise abroad, but said it would pursue a final contract bid with Saudi Arabia to avoid “financial penalties”. The Times reports that the Justice Secretary has demanded that the UK’s deal with Saudi Arabia be withdrawn, prompting a clash with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. It seems tragic that our Foreign Secretary is more concerned about the willingness of the UK to prop up the Saudi prison service than he is to challenge the Saudi’s over their treatment of UK citizens and others held and put to death by their barbaric system.